This piece originally appeared as part of my BFS Award nominated weekly newsletter, The Full Lid . If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.Ash is a Blade Runner, an LAPD sanctioned murderer. But Ash has a problem; she’s too good at the job and Replicants are learning that a new life really does await them on the off-world colonies. This should be good news. But Ash is in debt, a dozen different ways and there’s a reason she never takes her coat off. So when her boss directs her to a missing persons case, she has no choice.
Green and Johnson have an impressive screenwriting pedigree and it shows. Everything here matters, from surface detail to dialogue and all of it expands the characters and drives the world. Ash is a fascinating leading woman. Starting out as the sort of emotionally stunted killer that Rick Deckard would nod coldly to, we find out in short order that that’s just another coat she refuses to remove. Ash grew up on the ground and takes her street level upbringing as both a matter of pride and a crowbar. Sometimes she uses it to jimmy a case open. Sometimes she uses it to beat a case up. Sometimes it’s both. But Ash takes fierce pride in herself and her work, grounded literally in the exact way K and Deckard never were.
The sheer difficulty of making Ash work is something that everyone involved has to be applauded for. The Blade Runner movies are infamously iconic and any attempt to spin something off from them would not only need to have its own voice but also hit the right touchstones. This, Ash especially, does exactly that. Better still, it provides some context for Blade Runner Division itself, implying very strongly they’re a group of individualistic murderers run like C.I.’s with powers of arrest. Not quite police officers, not quite criminals, encouraged to think outside the box and given more latitude than most. In other words, perennially running the line between morally grey and morally dead. No wonder K began drifting from baseline.
With that rock solid core, the book is off to the races and never slows down. Andres Guinaldo’s art is the perfect combination of futuristic and, like Ash, grounded. There are some nice touchstones from Blade Runner but there’s also a clear and conscious effort to do something new. The Santa Barbara archipelago, the area flooded to allow for the estates of the rich, is a particularly interesting and well handled location. But what really works with the art is the characters. Ash’s emotional range is right there on the page and Guinaldo really helps land the sense the Blade Runner is on the run from something she can’t escape. It’s a performance in a way few comics manage and it anchors you to the page.
Completed by Marco Lesko’s colours, this is an instantly impressive start that’s accessible to movie fans and newcomers alike. The book feels new, plays like the movies but has it’s own distinct, necessary voice
Blade Runner 2019 Issue 1 is out now. Here’s my local comic shop. Here’s yours. Here’s Comixology.